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Effective Remedies for Biting Black Flies on a Boat: How to Protect Yourself and Enjoy Your Time on the Water

Effective Remedies for Biting Black Flies on a Boat: How to Protect Yourself and Enjoy Your Time on the Water

Biting black flies can be a nuisance for boaters, especially during the summer months when these pesky insects are most active. Not only can they cause painful bites, but they can also carry diseases. Fortunately, there are effective remedies that boaters can use to keep black flies at bay and enjoy their time on the water.

Understanding Black Flies

Black flies are small, blood-sucking insects that belong to the Simuliidae family. They are also known as buffalo gnats, turkey gnats, and sand flies. Black flies are found worldwide, but they are most common in North America.

Life Cycle of Black Flies

The life cycle of black flies consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are laid in flowing water, and the larvae attach themselves to rocks or other submerged objects. The larvae feed on algae and other organic matter in the water. After a few weeks, the larvae transform into pupae, which are non-feeding and non-mobile. The pupae eventually emerge as adults, which mate and lay eggs.

Habitat and Behaviour

Black flies are most active during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. They are attracted to humans and animals by the carbon dioxide and other chemicals in their breath. Black flies are also attracted to dark colors, movement, and heat.

Black flies are found near flowing water, such as rivers, streams, and lakes. They prefer clean, clear water with high levels of dissolved oxygen. Black flies are also found in wooded areas, where they feed on wildlife and humans.

Impact of Black Flies on Boating Activities

Black flies are known to be persistent and irritating pests that swarm around humans and animals. They can disrupt outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, and other water sports. Black flies can get into the nose, eyes, ears, and mouth, causing discomfort and irritation to the people on the boat.

Boaters and anglers are particularly vulnerable to black flies, as they spend extended periods on the water. The constant biting can cause severe itching, swelling, and pain, which can lead to distraction and loss of concentration. This can be dangerous, especially when operating a boat or handling fishing equipment.

Moreover, black flies can also affect the performance of boats. They tend to accumulate on the boat’s surface, clogging up the engine’s air intake and reducing its efficiency. This can lead to a decrease in power and speed, making boating activities less enjoyable.

Preventive Measures

Proper Clothing

Wearing the right clothing is one of the most effective ways to prevent black flies from biting you on a boat. Here are some tips:

  • Wear light-colored clothing: Dark colors attract black flies, so it’s best to wear light-colored clothing.
  • Cover as much skin as possible: Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks to cover as much skin as possible.
  • Choose the right fabric: Wear clothing made of tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton, that black flies can’t bite through.
  • Use insect repellent: Apply insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing to deter black flies.

Environmental Controls

Keeping the environment around your boat clean and free of debris can help prevent black flies from infesting your boat. Here are some tips:

  • Remove standing water: Black flies breed in standing water, so it’s important to remove any standing water around your boat.
  • Keep your boat clean: Clean your boat regularly to remove any food scraps or debris that may attract black flies.
  • Use fly traps: Use fly traps around your boat to capture black flies and prevent them from biting you.
  • Install screens: Install screens on your boat’s windows and doors to keep black flies out.

Effective Remedies

When it comes to dealing with biting black flies on a boat, there are a number of effective remedies that can help keep these pesky insects at bay. Here are some of the most popular remedies to consider:

Topical Treatments

One of the most effective ways to prevent black fly bites is to apply a topical treatment to your skin. There are a variety of different products available on the market, including creams, lotions, and sprays, that can help repel black flies and other biting insects. Look for products that contain DEET, picaridin, or IR3535, as these are some of the most effective ingredients for repelling black flies.

Natural Remedies

For those who prefer to use natural remedies, there are a number of options available as well. Some people find that applying essential oils like citronella, lavender, or peppermint to their skin can help repel black flies. Others swear by using garlic or onion juice as a natural repellent. Another option is to wear clothing made from natural fibers like cotton or linen, as these materials are less attractive to black flies than synthetic fabrics.

Chemical Repellents

In addition to topical treatments and natural remedies, there are also a variety of chemical repellents that can be used to keep black flies away. One popular option is permethrin, which is a synthetic chemical that can be applied to clothing, tents, and other outdoor gear to repel black flies and other biting insects. Another option is to use insecticide sprays or foggers to kill black flies in and around your boat.

No matter which remedy you choose, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure that you’re using the product safely and effectively. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, as well as a hat and sunglasses, to protect yourself from black fly bites.

Emergency Actions

First Aid Procedures

If someone gets bitten by a black fly on a boat, there are several first aid procedures that can be done to alleviate the symptoms. The following are some effective remedies for black fly bites:

  • Clean the bitten area with soap and water to prevent infection.
  • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Use an over-the-counter anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to relieve itching.
  • Take an antihistamine medication to reduce swelling and itching.
  • Apply a paste made of baking soda and water to the bitten area to relieve itching.

It is important to note that some people may have an allergic reaction to black fly bites. In such cases, the following emergency actions should be taken.

When to Seek Medical Help

If the bitten person experiences any of the following symptoms, immediate medical attention should be sought:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hives or rash over a large area of the body

In such cases, the bitten person should be taken to the nearest hospital or emergency room. It is important to inform the medical staff that the person was bitten by a black fly, as this will help them provide appropriate treatment.


In conclusion, black flies can be a nuisance for boaters, but there are several effective remedies that can help keep them at bay. Boaters can use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and avoid areas where black flies are known to be present. Additionally, some boaters use special traps and devices to keep black flies away from their boats.